July 28, 2006

Walking for life: College students hike across the country to save lives

By Mary Ann Wyand

“Crossroads Pro-Life Walk Across America” participants had a spring in their steps last week as they hiked across Indiana. They were happy that President Bush vetoed legislation on July 19 that would have expanded federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

Human embryos are babies no matter how small they are, the Crossroads walkers emphasized on July 20 during a break from their pro-life pilgrimage along U.S. 40 west of Indianapolis.

“I congratulate President Bush for taking a stand against the destruction of life,” Crossroads volunteer Dennis Stoll said. “I think that takes a lot of guts. He did what needed to be done, and now life will be protected at the earliest stage, which is great. Embryonic stem-cell research is presented in a very deceptive way [by advocates]. It’s the destruction of human life in its earliest form.”

Stoll is a member of Most Sacred Heart Parish in Florissant, Mo. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of St. Louis in May and decided to spend his summer promoting life issues by walking across the country. He joined the 12th annual walk in California.

The Crossroads pro-life pilgrimage along the busy highways and byways of America is challenging, he said, especially during the recent 90-degree weather.

“It’s difficult to walk in the heat, but what keeps all of us going, I think, is knowing that the purpose of our pilgrimage is to witness to life,” Stoll said. “There are a lot of challenges and difficulties, but … maybe someone [considering abortion] will see us along the way and it might make a difference in their life. It may be a matter of life and death. Who knows? We’ll never know until we meet God one day.”

Wearing T-shirts which proclaim that they are “Taking Steps to Save Lives,” the 13 collegians from throughout the United States are halfway to their goal of reaching Washington, D.C., by Aug. 11 for a pro-life prayer service on Capitol Hill.

They also plan to attend Mass on Aug. 15—the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Two other groups of Crossroads volunteers also are walking to the nation’s capital via northern and southern routes this summer. They take turns walking and praying the rosary during the day and throughout the night regardless of the weather.

The collegians attend Mass daily if possible and stop at various cities on weekends to pray outside abortion clinics, speak at Masses and talk to as many people as they can about the need to respect and protect the sanctity of life.

Ellie Delahunt of Chicago graduated from the University of Illinois in Champagne, Ill., in May with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a certificate in secondary education. She attended Mass at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center during her college years.

“I’m walking for life and I think it’s great that the president is defending life by taking a stand against embryonic stem-cell research,” Delahunt said. “It involves the destruction of human life—in addition to abortion—and people need to know that.”

The pro-life pilgrimage has shown her the reality of “the fight of good against evil,” she said. “I can really feel God’s presence when we’re walking. I feel like the Blessed Virgin is kind of hovering there and protecting us. … It was amazing to see how many times that the devil has been trying to knock us down with injuries. … It was really hard for our other walkers because there weren’t enough people, but with all the prayers and the grace we’ve made it through so far.”

Delahunt said it has been “so amazing to see the support that we get when we walk across America, whether it’s just somebody driving by and handing us money out of their car window to support our cause or priests and people at parishes giving us hugs when we give a talk.

“I love the support that’s out there,” she said. “It’s great knowing that people are praying for us as we go across the country.” †


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